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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 1363

Senator WOOD (QUEENSLAND) - I desire to ask a question of the Attorney-General. Does he remember a statement which the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, made recently in which he said that it was all right for draft resisters to break the law? Does he consider that that was a very dangerous statement to come from Mr Whitlam, particularly as he is a member of the legal profession as well as being the Leader of the Opposition? Does he consider that that statement by Mr Whitlam has been a dangerous encouragement to university students, demonstrators and others to break the law, as happened at the University of Sydney a few days ago?

Senator Murphy - I rise on a point or order, Mr President. The honourable senator has not asked a question which seeks information. It offends the rule which prevents questions from being hypothetical, argumentative or seeking an expression of opinion. 1 would submit that it is a classical instance of something which is aimed to be in the nature of a speech or a comment. It is persuasive and of a debating nature rather than a real question seeking information. I ask for the question to be disallowed.

The PRESIDENT - Order! I must confess that I was aberrant for a few minutes because I was looking at a list I have in front of me of honourable senators who have been attempting to catch my eye. 1 freely and frankly confess to honourable senators that I did not hear Senator Wood's question. If the circumstances are as outlined by Senator Murphy the question would not be in accordance with the Standing Orders. In the circumstances, 1 think that the Attorney-General should take it upon himself to be obedient to the Standing Orders in acknowledging the question directed to him. I call the AttorneyGeneral.

Senator GREENWOOD - Mr President, I was asked whether I was aware of a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place some time ago. Whilst I do not recall the exact words used by Mr Whitlam, they were certainly to the effect that draft dodging was not a crime and that that therefore excused the conduct of the Australian Labor Party in endorsing a person who was wanted by the police to appear in court to answer a National Service Act offence. 1 have no knowledge of anything which would connect directly members of the Australian Labor Party with the events of last Monday and I .have no reason to believe that any such direct connection exists. Bui I do believe that if leading people in the community, particularly the Leader of the Opposition Party and many of his supporters, were to be giving encouragement to Jaw breaking, giving encouragement to action which is contemptuous of the lawful processes and generally creating an atmosphere in the community that one can resist the National Service Act with impunity they would be encouraging lawlessness. If the attitude is in fact created that it is fair enough to run away from one's national service obligations and fair enough to set the police a merry dance - I suppose it is an inevitable step for some students to take that view if the police do in fact arrest a person who is wanted for some national service charge or on a warrant to appear in court - then in those circumstances the Labor Party bears an indirect responsibility the weight and measure of which it is difficult to assess - but some responsibility I am quite sure - for the events which have flowed.

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